Life as we know it

Tonight, I’m taking back my blog. Catching up on some things.

This is how it’s worked since this whole adventure began. My posts come in spurts. Then we’re hit with a snowball that turns into an avalanche. Things move so fast I have trouble finding time to translate my thoughts to the keyboard, and before I know it a month or more has passed without me posting anything of substance on these pages. … Funny, you would think it would be the other way around: That working on a college campus would be less time-consuming and allow me more time for reflection than when I worked as a newspaper reporter.

Then again, my mantra on this blog project has always been to let my life rule it, not let it rule my life. It will evolve with me. And if I don’t have anything to share, oh well. I‘m going to force it. I’ll come back to it when the inspiration strike me.

So tonight, at 12:14 a.m., I’ve been struck. Inspired to catch up. I can‘t sleep.

* * *
My most recent absence from the blogosphere began with Phoebe’s first day of school, which was followed by our mini-hurricane and then what I’ve officially dubbed as the tsunami that comes with the start of the school year.

In the past, I watched from the sidelines as Kates went through the steps of preparing her classroom, the staff planning meetings and then the settling into the school year. Now I’m right there with her -- with the preparation, planning and settling in. Three weeks into our school years and we’re trying to settle into something of a routine. … There were a couple weekends recently that Kates would spend an afternoon working in her classroom while I stayed home to hang out with Phoebe. Then we’d come meet up for a quick supper and trade places so I could head out to work in my office. During the week, we’d alternate nights, with Kates spending one night at her classroom and me taking the next night to work in my office.

I’ve spent the days and nights working on presentations for employee meetings, messaging for the president, developing new projects and churning out the crazy number of news releases that come with the start of another school year. On a night last week, I left my office at around 11 p.m., while two of my cohorts stayed behind to work longer. As I exited our office wing, I was met by another colleague leaving her office in another part of the building. Her shoulders slumped and she made a comment about other people being in the building so late. “Yeah, and there’s two more left where I came from,” I said.

There was a stretch at the end of August when I was lucky if I got to bed before 1 a.m. Not to mention we wasted a couple weekends when we could have been playing because we were either still trying to play catch-up on our projects, or we were too exhausted to do much of anything. There was one night a couple weeks ago that Kates and I got into bed together, and she was asleep before I could pull the covers over me.

Just when I think I'm finding some clarity, there's another hiccup that leads me astray. Worse yet, are the occasional reminders or what might have been had we decided not to move. Like another moment a couple weeks ago when I was working on a project and I saw a tweet from the Weepies thanking fans who attended their Chicago concert for an “amazing night.” I sighed, knowing there’s a high chance Kates and I would have been there, and moved on.

In those moments, I try to remind myself of the reasons we pulled the trigger on our move. The tremendous opportunities for growth. The unsteady work environment at our former employers. The change of scenery. The desire for new and different experiences. The family-friendly small-town lifestyle.

And for the most part it’s worked out. I started to realize some the benefits of my career move within my first month on the job, which -- hard to believe -- was almost two years ago now. But it’s only this fall that I’m really starting to realize the full impact I can have in my role. Sharing the university’s great story and spreading the word about our accomplishments is a big part of my responsibility every day. But more and more I’m also embracing the opportunities I have to teach. I’m being invited to speak to courses about my field experiences. I’m meeting with students routinely to discuss their stories or share with them stories they might not yet know. I’m mentoring and collaborating with interns in our office. … And when a student sends me an email thanking me for my help or stops by my office to tell me about his or her summer internship experience, the feelings those moments create are better than any front page, above-the-fold byline or rockstar interview I landed.

* * *
Another component to this crazy phase of my life: I’ve begun work on my master’s degree in (cue drum roll … ) higher education leadership. Seems appropriate given my previous paragraph, right?

After all, acquiring a master’s degree was a, if not the, top motivator in going after this adventure. Except I had to work for a year before I could become eligible to start a master’s program, and even then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle the higher education program or go for all the marbles and try for the MBA. Ultimately, I decided the higher education program was the most practical for my lifestyle and interests. But even then, I didn’t anticipate starting the program for another year.

As it turned out, just a couple weeks before the start of the fall semester, I got into a conversation with another graduate student who mentioned the program and inferred there were seats open. I casually asked the graduate dean about it. He referred me to the chair of the program. And within a few days I was enrolling.

It’s a cohort program that’s designed for professionals who are already working in higher education and aspire to leadership roles, not to mention teaching opportunities. Classroom meetings occur only once a month -- on Friday nights and Saturday mornings -- but there is a heavy amount of reading and online work that’s assigned in between. In fact, for the next several months my weeknights will be scheduled around Monday night textbook readings, Wednesday night paper deadlines and Friday night responses to online postings.

If all goes according to plan, I’ll be the proud owner of a master’s degree in April 2013.

* * *
So how’s Phoebe doing amid all the chaos? She‘s never been better.

Her happy-go-lucky personality keeps Kates and I going. Her laughter is infectious. And when she asks us to turn on some music and dance with her, no matter what we’re doing, it’s almost impossible to say no.

She’s always been active and creative, but preschool, it seems, has raised her imagination and curiosity to new levels. She dances around the living room singing songs she learned that day, and now our dinner-time discussions not only revolve around the days of Kates and I, but hers, too.

We're getting into working on the family projects she brings home at night, and the activities she does at school are just as amusing. ... Phoebe's teachers have commented to us more than once about how happy a child Phoebe is, and that she tends to be a chatterbox -- which we knew long ago. But the best moment so far may have come when Phoebe brought home a book of things she and her classmates can do. Most kids were identified with simple tasks. Brody can read. ... Tucker can paint ... Heather can help her mom with laundry ...

Phoebe can multi-task.

We've begun the extra-curricular activities, too. Kates enrolled Phoebe in a dance class. ... Before Phoebe, I always said if I were to have a daughter I wasn't doing the dance thing. But with Phoebe's energy, dance or gymnastics was inevitable. Now, every Thursday evening begins with Kates taking Phoebe to dance class.

Thanks to the active lives we're leading, and the friendships Kates and I have built, Phoebe's friendships are growing, too -- at church, at school and with the kids of my campus colleagues. A couple weeks ago, she was invited to the birthday party of one of the campus kiddos, a party that featured everything from a bouncy house to a pinata (Phoebe's had it in her head for awhile that she's getting a bouncy house for her fourth birthday party ... We'll see.). ... But her BFF is Lola. It's a friendship that was born at Phoebe's daycare and has stayed strong this fall even though they're attending different preschools. They're both  participating in the aforementioned dance class, and we've arranged for them to get together a couple times outside of that, in addition to some chance meet-ups at the college football games. When their eyes meet, they squeal, run to each other and hug like long-lost friends. And then they're inseperable until we have to part ways. It's pretty adorable.

* * *

When you consider the big picture, we're in a pretty good spot right now.

We're healthy and happy. Sure, we miss our family and Wisconsin friends dearly, every day. But we're surrounded by some really good people in The 'Ville.

We're still getting settled into our house. And there are still boxes left to unpack. But we're thrilled every day by the charm of it and feel lucky to have found it.

The football season is underway for our beloved 'Cats, and we'll no doubt be spending many Saturdays at the stadium this fall. ... Phoebe loves the atmosphere. The band, the cheerleaders, the mascot.

With the college students returning, the population of the town doubles and the streets are buzzing again.

We kicked off the school year again this year with some fireworks.

Life is good.

No comments: